UK round-up: BT to scrap Wholesale division; Virgin offloads ADSL users to TalkTalk; Vodafone targets residential broadband market

14 Nov 2014

BT Group is planning to scrap its BT Wholesale unit and fold the multi-billion-pound business into Openreach, the monopoly division that controls Britain’s national telecoms infrastructure, the Daily Telegraph reports. According to the broadsheet the group has appealed to communications regulator Ofcom for permission for BT Wholesale, which reported sales of GBP2.4 billion (USD3.78 billion) last year, to be subsumed by Openreach. If the plans go ahead Openreach would overtake BT’s outsourcing division, Global Services, to become BT’s biggest business, with annual turnover of nearly GBP7.5 billion, equivalent to 41% of the group total.

The Financial Times has reported that UK internet service provider (ISP) TalkTalk has acquired 100,000 legacy ADSL customers from Virgin Media. The service was offered to users outside of Virgin’s cable broadband footprint, but never promoted particularly heavily by the cableco. In other news, Virgin Media is to expand its hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) broadband network to 5,000 homes in Glasgow as part of the commitments it made during its involvement in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Properties in Cumbernauld, Duntocher, Barrhead and Uddingston will be able to access downlink transmission speeds of up to 152Mbps by the end of this month.

Vodafone UK is poised to make its long-awaited move into the consumer broadband segment, and has outlined a provisional Spring 2015 launch date for its new services. According to the BBC, Vodafone will use infrastructure acquired through its 2012 acquisition of Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW), while also leveraging BT’s Openreach network.

The UK government has confirmed that a total of 1.5 million properties have now been connected to superfast broadband as a direct result of state-sponsored initiatives like Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), and has asserted that ‘superfast broadband’ now reaches 80% of the UK population. As such, culture secretary Sajid Javid has noted that the government is now firmly on track to reach its target of 95% coverage by 2017. Earlier this week, the Scottish government revealed that 150,000 homes and businesses had been connected thanks to the Digital Scotland BDUK partnership, which is also funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

CityFibre is to provide EE, Three and the two mobile operators’ infrastructure joint-venture Mobile Broadband Network Limited (MBNL) with the UK’s first dark fibre backhaul connections in a bid to improve performance. According to TechWeek Europe, the first masts to be connected are in Hull, where CityFibre is currently upgrading MBNL’s network, but the parties have signed a national framework agreement, which would allow similar connectivity to take place in other cities across the UK.